Monday, January 28, 2013

Research questions

the next step (besides waiting for the feedback on the research proposal) is to define interview questions. How to formulate questions that will lead me to the information I need?

First, let me present the research question:  ''How does the placement policy on secondary education in the Netherlands look like, and what is the influence on underachieving students looked at switching levels and grade retention?''

On the one side there are the obvious questions about the main elements I want to look at. These are described in the sub questions partly:
1.        Which factors can explain the subject of underachievement?
2.    What does the placement policy on middle school looks like?
3.      In what way are students guided in their school careers?

      I'm not really sure about the following questions, because they have an aspect in them of a quantitative research question. It is possible for a research to maintain both qualitative and quantitative elements in them, but I'm not sure if those elements could be obtained via interviews only. 
      On the other hand, there are certain elements mainly quantitative, like the numbers on grade retention. So, with that thought in mind I put in the following questions anyway: 

.       - Is there a relation between a certain placement policy and pass rates?
.       - Is there a relation between student guidance and changing of level and/ or grade retention?
.       - Is there a relation between a certain placement policy and changing of level and/ or grade retention?
.       - Is there a relation between student guidance and pass rates?
.       - Is there a relation between changing of level and/ or grade placement policy and pass rates?
    -Is there a relation between a certain placement policy and changing of level and/ or grade? 

     What do you think about these questions? Are they specific enough to build on?

     This week I'll make a start with interview preparations, as what questions to ask and in what way. The research method is still not completely clear on that point. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Doing research

Things have become far more structured these weeks, after speaking to a lot of people. One of the things that change is the subject. I finally have a structured subject to work with. A glimpse of that you can find here in Dutch.

In the research world, researchers are looking at the relation of a certain (undependable) X and a (dependable) Y. from that, there pop up some results and an article can be written. Also, it is important to write about relations that aren't there, in contrast to those views nowadays, that every research should find something.. Sometimes there's just nothing to be found! That's interesting also.

What I'm looking for is the x and y, to fill in for my research question. I like to research a certain relation between them. X is about the placement policy. When students leave primary education in the Netherlands, teachers/schools/parent have an opinion about the level of the student. Teachers have different guidelines for their decision for student school levels. Like test results, grades, work attitude and so on. Parents may agree or disagree with the teachers choice and can talk it over with the teacher. At the secondary education, the school has a placement policy to ensure the student is on the most right level immediately  There are 3 levels of education. The VMBO which prepares a student in 4 years for the vocational, the Havo which will prepare a student in 5 years to follow higher vocational, the Atheneum, which educates in 6 years to prepare for a university study. Also 6 years is the Gymnasium, that only differs from the Atheneum in the fact it has 2 extra languages with it (Greek and Latin) but also educates to follow a university study.

Well, the intention is to place a student as soon as possible on the best track, educational and emotional. But, why is there a problem? This is my relation between X (the placement policy) and Y (underachieving). This system of early classifying is not so optimal as it may seem. The Netherlands has the highest amount of grade retention (4th class of Havo: 18%) and when the class of 5 VWO (this is the combination of Atheneum and Gymnasium called) is asked how many are grade retentioners the answer is 22%. The OESO average lies on 14,3%, thus the Netherlands is far above that. The Inspectie van Onderwijs (2011) (The Dutch Inspectorate of Educationhas done research specified on the amount of grade retentioners per level and year. The 7th chapter of this research is dedicated to this subject. Also, here the Inspectie van Onderwijs is just ascertain it, and not going into the processes that lies beneath. Click HERE for the Dutch new article about the subject, and here for the Onderwijsraad (Education council) about underachieving (Chapter 2 and 3, in Dutch) & Onderwijsverslag 2010-2011 (start with chapter 7, in Dutch). 

That's a problem. Why do students fall out? Why do they get grade retention, and what is the reason they switch levels? With the subject of my thesis I will hopefully be able to give insight information about students who underachieve.

Next week another update!

By the way, if you're interested in the education system of the Netherlands, take a look at this (In English):  The State of Education in the Netherlands. Highlights of the 2010/2011 Education Report.